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Are you looking to start a business but don’t know where to begin?
I’m the VP of Business Operations at Intro, a marketplace connecting people to entrepreneurs. I’ve chatted with some of the world’s most successful founders (like Alexis Ohanian at Reddit and Spencer Rascoff at Zillow), and I distilled my top 5 tips about generating the right business idea.
If you want personalized help and advice, you can book one-on-one video calls with these founders and many more at Intro.
1. Start with a problem
“The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It’s to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself.” – Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator
Nick Huzar founded OfferUp because he was having a kid and had no room in his house. He needed to sell stuff.
David Greenfeld founded DreamPops because he loved sweets and became lactose intolerant.
Starting a biz isn’t easy and the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who are truly invested in the problems they’re trying to solve. So before you start brainstorming ideas, ask yourself:
- What are the issues that I care about deeply?
- What problems have I faced in the past that I know how to solve?
If you want to seek venture funding, you need:
- A problem that impacts a bunch of people
- A market that is growing 20%+ a year
- Something that needs to be solved immediately
- A problem that impacts people regularly
2. Craft a solution
(Note: Don’t start here! A solution trying to find a problem is an exercise in frustration.)
Once you’ve identified a problem you’re passionate about solving, it’s time to start thinking about how you can address it. And one of the best places to start is by looking at what’s already out there.
- What products or services are currently available in your industry?
- Is there a gap in the market that you could fill?
- Is there a way you could improve upon existing solutions?
3. Consider your experience and expertise
Why you versus somebody else?
Your background and skills are valuable assets when it comes to starting a company.
Think about what you’re uniquely qualified to do, and how you can use your experience and expertise to solve the problem you’ve identified. You should have some advantage over any joe shmo off the street.
4. Get feedback from potential customers
Sarah Leary, the co-founder of Nextdoor, knows the power of getting actionable feedback from your users.
Talk to potential customers, but avoid asking leading or evaluative questions. Instead, focus on gathering information about the customer’s historical and current actions, behaviors, and needs:
- Focusing on the customer’s actions and behaviors: Rather than asking for someone’s opinion, try to understand what they actually do and why. For example, “How do you currently solve this problem?” or “What made you decide to use our product?”
- Asking open-ended, non-leading questions: Instead of asking “Do you like our idea?”, try asking “Tell me about the last time you used [insert name of a similar product in your industry].” or “What do you use [product name] for?”
- Avoiding yes/no questions: These types of questions can be limiting and don’t provide much useful information. Instead, try to ask questions that encourage the potential customer to explain their thoughts and experiences in more detail.
- Listening actively and taking detailed notes: Pay close attention to what the customer is saying and try to capture as much detail as possible. This will help you better understand their needs and pain points.
The more you can learn from potential customers, the better.
5. Don’t be afraid to pivot
Don’t be afraid to kill your baby.
Intro started as an in-person networking tool and pivoted to a virtual consulting platform.
Even the best startup ideas may need to be refined or completely changed as you learn more about your market. So don’t be afraid to pivot if you realize your original idea isn’t working out.
Hopefully, this guide helps you navigate the waters of finding the right startup concept. Choose an idea where you care deeply about the problem and the customers. Something that excites you and that you believe has the potential to be successful. With these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to coming up with a startup idea.
If you need help along the way, don’t be afraid to ask.